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Friday, September 22, 2006


Another New Media Alliance Contribution...

A Farewell to Armitage

WaPo’s high-attitude Plame-out

by Thomas Lindaman

After three years of accusations, media appearances, and heated exchanges, the Valerie Plame situation has gone from a bang to a fizzle. (Or as Snoop would say, a fizzle my nizzle for shizzle.) The media played a huge role in bringing us the details of Plamegate, as well as appearances by her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV. And after three years, we finally have the truth that it was former deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who knowingly or unknowingly leaked Plame’s name to Robert Novak.

And what did the media do? Well, we have to remember they’re responsible, serious-minded people who want to provide us with the most accurate information they have available so that we can be informed. So, they did what any serious-minded person would do.

They’ve started to pretend like the story wasn’t that important after all.

Leading the pack in the “What, We Worry About Shoddy Reporting?” sweepstakes is the Washington Post. In a column titled “End of an Affair” dated September 1, 2006, the Post offers an almost-mea culpa.

We’re reluctant to return to the subject of former CIA employee Valerie Plame because of our oft-stated belief that far too much attention and debate in Washington has been devoted to her story and that of her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, over the past three years.

Of course, this begs the question of how much attention the Post paid to the Plame story. Judging from the number of hits I got putting Plame’s name into their site’s search engine, quite a bit. From September 2003 to September 2006, a little over 3 years, the Post ran a total of 554 stories that referenced Valerie Plame. Break that down a bit further, it comes out to be a shade under 15 stories a month, or approximately a story every two days.

Whoa. If this is how the Washington Post shows restraint, I’d hate to see when they’re obsessing over a story.

Perhaps the most puzzling element of the Post’s column is how they try to keep the Bush Administration on the hook while at the same time acknowledge the people they’ve been hawking as the probable leakers are not guilty. Take this excerpt from the column:

That’s not to say Mr. Libby and other White House officials are blameless. As prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has reported, when Mr. Wilson charged that intelligence about Iraq had been twisted to make a case for war, Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney reacted by inquiring about Ms. Plame’s role in recommending Mr. Wilson for a CIA-sponsored trip to Niger…Mr. Libby then allegedly disclosed Ms. Plame’s identity to journalists and lied to a grand jury when he said he had learned of her identity from one of those reporters. Mr. Libby and his boss, Mr. Cheney, were trying to discredit Mr. Wilson; if Mr. Fitzgerald’s account is correct, they were careless about handling information that was classified.

Maybe if Cheney and Libby had stuffed their pants with sensitive documents like Sandy Burger did, the Post wouldn’t be calling them “careless.”

Ah, but then the Post does a complete 180:

Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame’s CIA career is Mr. Wilson.

Wait a sec. If Wilson is responsible for Plame’s name being made public, how can Cheney and Libby still be held responsible? A little more research on the Post’s part would have revealed that Plame was not an agent in the field at the time of her outing, and she hadn’t been for over five years, the minimum requirement by law under which someone exposing a CIA agent would be in violation of said law.

Research, by the way, that had been done by conservative bloggers for years now. And when people in pajamas scoop the big boys in the mainstream press, the media don’t have egg on their faces; they have an entire Grand Slam Breakfast.

At the heart of the media coverage of the now-discredited Valerie Plame issue is more half-cocked reporting. (Insert Bill Clinton joke here.) Now that the media have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, they’re now looking to pretend like there was no hand, no cookies, and no cookie jar. Then again, whenever you’re in the same party as Michael Moore, there’s a likely chance he’s eaten at least two out of the three.

Sorry, kids, but you don’t get off that easily. You owe it to your readers and to your fellow reporters to put as much heat on Richard Armitage and Joseph Wilson as you put on Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. They’ve enjoyed the fruits of your labor (or lack thereof) for too long. If you want justice for Valerie Plame, then go after those truly responsible for it. If you want to continue to blame the Bush Administration for actions they didn’t take…wait, isn’t that what you’re already doing?
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